Why Should Business Processes Be Documented?

Knowledge Transfer, Training, and Collaborative Continuous Improvement 

The rate at which employees are voluntarily quitting their jobs has steadily increased since the last economic recession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. With this increase in turnover rates , it is important that the knowledge of skilled workers leaves their brains and is stored somewhere in a format that can be picked up and quickly consumed by new hires (or internal candidates new to the role).

United States Job Quits Rate vs Job Openings Rate, source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, visualization detail: https://nicolaswilmot.com/historic-job-openings-rate-vs-job-quit-rate/

 The Feedback Loop

Once the process documentation is developed, it is critical that it is stored and presented in such a way that is accessible for process operators. This should allow for a feedback loop from the operators that are trained using the documentation to the guardians of the documents. These two ideas have a direct correlation towards continuous improvement efforts. The more accessible the process documentation is, the more operators will use it in training and later as reference material, leading to more feedback. Thus providing the opportunity for improvements based on user input.

Process Documentation Feedback Flow

Information System Development

Dealing with multiple stakeholders who are all speaking separate languages (figuratively) can be frustrating at the initiation of a software development project, all the way through closure. This pain can be alleviated with business processes that allow for all stakeholders to come together in discussing requirements. Process models can show who should be doing what and when should they be doing it, leaving as little in the “grey area” as possible.

In a study by PMI (Project Management Institute) in 2017, it was noted that 39% of projects failed due to “inaccurate requirements gathering”. This was the second highest cause of failure behind changes in organizational priorities (something that would generally be out of the project team’s hands). One way to combat against this risk is to use process models as requirements documents. Well-documented process models should provide an overview of data flows and system expectations.

Process Documentation in System Development Lifecycle (SDLC)


Clear process documentation allows for performance assessments to be generated rather quickly. Metrics should be used to measure the success of the process as outlined. Operators of the process must provide evidence of their execution to the documentation, which ensures the methods defined by experts are followed. This should prevent missed steps and lead to an overall increase in the quality of the given product or service.

It can be a tough sell to convince some that they should take the time to define their work and others to strictly follow it, but when taking a step back, it is easy to see a direct correlation between process and product.

Audit and Compliance

Depending on the industry, firm’s may be subject to strict regulations requiring proof of compliance to industry standards, such as those published by ISO (International Organization for Standardization).  According to ISO, consumers can be sure that
“products are safe, reliable and of good quality” when companies are compliant with standards. When business processes are defined in a consistent manner, it becomes much simpler to map to these standards or reference models.

Reference Model Gap Analysis Example

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2 years ago

Very good article. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on how to eliminate non-value added tasks from a process.